Tue, 14 Nov 2000

Project launched for conservation ahead of regional autonomy plan

JAKARTA (JP): A pilot project on protecting the environment ahead of the enactment of regional autonomy has been launched in three West Java regencies -- Kuningan, Majalengka and Cirebon.

The project is specifically designed to anticipate the implementation of regional autonomy, which many environmentalists fear could put conservation issues on the backburner.

The project was agreed upon following the Linggarjati Environment Meeting which ended here on Sunday, prominent environmentalist Emil Salim said.

"The focal point is an area stretching from Mount Ciremai -- about 3,078 meters high -- to Cirebon's coast," Emil said in a statement made available for The Jakarta Post on Monday.

"An integrated spatial planning between the three regencies is needed so we can avoid possible misuse of these mountainous ecosystems. That way each local administration will not make the mistake of exploiting the natural environment without preserving it," Emil said.

Mount Ciremai is a water catchment area which has at least 620 springs, which are the sources for rivers such as Cimanuk and Cisanggarung, which altogether provide about 90 percent water being used for drinking, household necessities, irrigation, agriculture, plantations as well as industries in the three regencies.

"Now the water resources for these three regencies are declining due to various activities on Ciremai, such as mining," Emil, who is chairman of Indonesia's Biodiversity (Kehati) Foundation.

Emil, a noted economist who has also served as minister of the environment, said the danger lies in the fact that biodiversity is not positioned as a central part of the country's development.

"Regional autonomy is a drastic change for this country".

"Therefore we hope to identify priorities and solutions to the problems of managing sustainable development within an autonomous decentralized region and foster cooperation between business and other countries such as the Netherlands," he said.

The two-day meeting held here was initiated by Kehati, along with FINED (Jakarta-based Indonesian-Netherlands Forum) and the Netherlands-based FNI (Forum Netherlands-Indonesia).

Among the recommendations of the meeting was a public-private partnership to develop a funding mechanism to support conservation management on a sustainable basis.

The provincial government along with related agencies should be responsible for land-use planning, including water usage, Emil added.

"Actually such handling has been practiced in North Sulawesi, in which water resources are managed by a water users' association. The West Java administration is also preparing a master water plan, like those in the Netherlands and Canada" the statement said.

The meeting also proposed a national spatial plan, from the provincial to regency level. The plan must also be attached to a water-usage plan for administrations from the national to the regency level. (edt)